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Full text of "Mathematical And Physical Papers - Iii"

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However, it seems to me to be a point of small importance, so far as regards its bearing on other physical questions, whether the illuminating power of these rays is absolutely null or only excessively feeble. It is quite certain that, if not absolutely null, their illuminating power is at least utterly disproportionate to the effect which they produce in the phenomena to which the present paper relates, and indeed that is true even of the violet rays. By illuminating power, I mean of course power of producing the sensation of light when received directly into the eye; for by giving rise to light of lower refrangibility, they are able to illuminate strongly an object on which they fall.
Mode of Observation specially applicable to Opaque Bodies.
106. In some of the experiments already described, the change of refrangibility was exhibited, which was produced by washed papers and solid bodies. There exists, however, a mode of observation far preferable to those which have already been explained as applicable to such cases, and which may even in some instances be employed with advantage in the examination of transparent bodies. In the experiment described in Art. 100, the primitive spectrum is pure, but the derived spectrum impure, on account of the finite length of the slit. Were the slit reduced to a point, it is true that the derived spectrum would become pure like the primitive, but then the quantity of light would be so small that the primary spectrum would hardly bear prismatic analysis. It is well, once for all, to examine a few sensitive opaque substances in a very pure spectrum, because then the exhibition of fixed lines running across the colours in the derived spectrum removes even the shadow of a doubt as to the reality of the change of refrangibility of the incident light. Besides this, the only theoretical advantage in having the primitive spectrum very pure is, that it might be expected to enable us to detect any very rapid fluctuations in the colour or intensity of the dispersed light. Of course, I am now speaking only with reference to experiments in which the observer is employing the spectrum to examine some substance, not employing the substance to examine the spectrum. But practically, I have not found any advantage on this account; for abrupt, or almost abrupt, changes in the colour or intensity of the dispersed light hardly ever, if ever, occur, except when the